The small town take on Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday is focusing more people’s attention on small businesses for holiday shopping. That’s good. But what does it mean? How can small town businesses benefit? What do we need to do?

Art Local, Eat Local, and Shop Small Saturday
The bottom sticker is for Small
Business Saturday from 2011.
Seen in Portland, Maine. 

Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov 24, 2012. It was started as a reaction to the excesses of Black Friday, which almost entirely benefit major chain retailers. It is promoted most visibly by large corporations that have many small businesses as customers, including American Express, FedEx and ClearChannel this year.

The tag line is “Shop Small” and you’ll see #shopsmall used as a hashtag on many social media sites.

Any small business can participate. There are customize-able marketing materials available on the Small Business Saturday site.

Any community can participate as a group. The site provides materials in the Rally Your Town section.

There is also a section to help consumers find local businesses. This is less important for small towns, where most people know what stores are in town; they just need to be reminded to shop at home. For small towns, the big competitor isn’t the big chain store next door as much as it is the Shopping Trip to the Big City. That’s where we lose most of our sales.

What kind of local promotions make sense for small towns on Small Business Saturday?

1. Town-wide promotions of the enormous range of products available locally 

People may know every local store, but they really don’t know all the things they can buy at home. Tell them. Surprise them with things no one knew you could buy in town.

2. Exciting events and happenings that give people a reason to stay in town to shop
Host some live music or an art display. Feature local foods or regional treats. Many towns do giveaways and holiday celebrations with a shopping theme. 
3. Multi-town tours that expand shopping opportunities for locals without going to the big city
Don’t have much shopping in your town? Band together with a nearby town or two for a tour that ties together all your strengths. 
The independent business campaign
Shift Your Shopping” can be used
all season long. 
4. Season-long promotions like Shift Your Shopping that continue to remind locals to shop at home
One day is not enough, especially since Saturday is a prime day for those trips to the Big City. Work on capturing the after-work shoppers with your convenience and closeness. 
5. Coordinated window displays and advertising themes that include multiple merchants 
When several stores work together on window displays, you can all end up with more memorable results. Tie it in with that town-wide promotion and the Shift Your Shopping logo.

6. Store improvement projects that make local shopping easier and more attractive for customers
Make this a big priority. Especially in small towns, many stores could stand to improve. Clean up, dress up, level up. Expand your hours late into the evening. You are going to have to earn those additional sales.

Now that we have all this national media attention and advertising focused on small businesses, it’s up to us in small towns to take these campaigns and make them work for us.

What is your town doing to promote more local sales this year?

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About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

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  1. says

    My friend Shannon Ehlers shared an event on small town used to bring shoppers downtown during the holidays:

    “Pretty proud of my little adopted home town of Dunlap, Iowa. They hosted their ‘shop hop’ in mid December. It is a Friday evening where all of the businesses and service buildings downtown stay open into the evening, serving Christmas goodies and also offering first shot at some of their holiday sale items. There were carriage rides around town, and the town was full of people carrying shopping bags back to their cars. A big success, and a great idea.”